Monday, March 29, 2010

Swiss Typography

Entering Switzerland we hit a traffic jam. Normal, we thought, as it was the school holidays so lots of Swiss people will be returning home. Not so. the jam was uniquely foreigners entering Switzerland and being asked to pay the road tax. Some people say that Swiss people are money minded, others just plain boring but for me I think they're sticklers for rules and regulations. And this can be seen in their typography and graphic design.

I was in Switzerland purely for pleasure with no work commitments at all, but you can't switch your eyes off from the graphic design around you. Looking at the billboards, posters and magazines you can see the differences and in Switzerland the differences are remarkable. Clean use of type is to be expected but also a beautiful appreciation of white space and grids. This was not only present in cool magazines and shops but also for fairly mundane products such as car washes, local radio stations and the like. This sort of design is very often mistakenly called uninteresting by British clients who bemoan the simply sans serif mistaking most for Arial. Not even seeing the beauty involved in the relevant 'Helvetica' font. Sometimes our clients feel a nice twirly font might do the job. and sometimes they're right. Flouncy fonts are sometimes necessary but not nearly as much as the client might think or want it themselves. But can this argument be levelled at Swiss design? Is it boring? Are the lack of 'interesting' fonts creating an atmosphere of blandness? Certainly some of the designs I saw were rubbish; not every Swiss graphic design project I saw was intricate and delicate in its respect for simple design. And if I'm honest it did feel like *lots* of the ads and designs were following the same pattern of typography and layout but I don't think this is because the Swiss are boring. I think it has more to do with their respect of rules and regulations.

The Swiss have obviously settled on the essence of what makes good design for them: clear typography with bold sans serif (although they like some slab serif). Sometimes the typography is all of the design. I like this idea that the information within the piece also makes up the aesthetic. Form and function together. Sometimes this can get messy but see the examples here to see how it really can work.

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